REPORT #37 Jan 1999

Produced by the Belize Development Trust

(The question is why don't they run a Referendum and find out if they should elect their own District Government? As the FORGOTTEN DISTRICT, they would be far better off running things themselves, declaring protected zones and other things! You can't expect a government dominated by port town intelligentsia to have any comprehension of Toledo local desires. GOD HELPS THOSE THAT HELPS THEMSELVES!)

Contributed from the Belize Culture List as an extract from some port town news media in the center of the country.

Manatees slaughtered in P.G.
Thursday, October 14, 1999

Three manatees, two adults and a calf were butchered in the Deep River area of the Toledo District this past weekend. Local fishermen John and Wallace Young were on a voluntary patrol for the Toledo Institute for Development and the Environment, TIDE, when they found the carcasses in some mangroves. Will Mejia of TIDE says Toledo already has the smallest population of manatees in all of Belize and such incidents are all too frequent. Mejia believes declaring the area a protected zone will help to combat the problem which is now being fought mainly through the help of Belize's fishermen. TIDE videotaped the carnage earlier this week and provided News Five with some footage.

Will Mejia, TIDE
"For years now we have been working in this area getting it declared. It's been an area where people from across the border come across here to murder, slaughter manatees and sell them in the open market in Guatemala.

We are trying desperately to stop the killing of these manatees. Over the weekend several manatees were killed in the Puert Honduras area. Until we do something to declare this area protected the killing of these manatees will continue. Basically we are saying to the Guatemalans it is okay to go ahead and kill the manatees. Because in Guatemala and Honduras they have declared protected areas for the manatees which is only an hour and fifteen minutes from Punta Gorda. In Puerto Barrios, fifteen minutes away from P.G. they have declared a marine reserve.

The fishermen of the Toledo District are the ones who come into TIDE office and tell us about the killing and slaughtering of the manatees. TIDE has set up a gas bank which we have made possible so that the fishermen can come in and do voluntary patrols; we provide the fuel because our staff is small.

We have a team of fishermen who have volunteered their time to go out there and try and patrol the area so that they can deter the people from coming over and killing the manatees. The reason this happened is because our gas bank had gone low so we couldn't be out there patrolling as much. The fishermen that were out there who got the last amount of gas, they went out there but it was too little too late."

Mejia says they have been trying for five years to have the area declared a protected one and he appeals to the Ministry of Fisheries to speed up the process. Personnel from the Coastal Zone Management Institute visited the site where the dead manatees were found today. 

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